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Sunday, May 19
The Indiana Daily Student

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Smoke and dust of Diwali make messy cities

The cracking noises have yet to stop.

I thought I was prepared for Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, but people started letting fireworks off in the hallway leading up to Diwali and haven’t stopped since.

As someone whose childhood creativity was often spent on homemade concoctions used for explosions in the woods, I enjoyed Diwali extensively. It looks like many Indian people did, too.

People enjoy it too much, according to one of my professors. While most people respond to inquiries about Diwali with “festival time” or “the greatest holiday,” my professor took a different view.

While he enjoyed Diwali and participated in all the activities, he said Diwali was dangerous in urban areas and not set up the way he’d prefer.

In class, I mentioned that I would set off firecrackers at a Diwali celebration, and my professor said, “I imagine it’s different from where you’re from.”  

He then launched into an explanation about sociology and why people in India set off fireworks on the streets of major cities.

Basically, India has a lot of people; urban areas are exceptionally crowded.

That’s why, when nearly every person in a given location wants to set off multiple fireworks at a given time, there simply isn’t enough space. People set off fireworks on the main streets, on roofs and even inside buildings, making for a lot of smoke and a lot of litter.

Blatant defiance of fire codes is on one level inspiring because of the celebratory atmosphere and on another level upsetting because of the obvious danger and environmental degradation.

I spoke with one crowd of students who were sitting amid broken glass and used firecrackers, and I learned that the festivities make for dangerous environmental and celebratory situations. However, most people are increasingly aware of environmental protection.

The environmental club is active on campus, organizing demonstrations and cleaning up student areas while they’re at it.

While litter and holiday debris are still scattered everywhere, the presence of dust bins labeled “use me” deter litterers, and the street cleaners are having to sweep up less.  

Environmental awareness extends beyond Diwali to include other holidays as well.
People are using environmentally sustainable statues of gods for other festivals, which prevents pollution of water sources.

This increasing awareness echoes the pleas of environmental activists in the United States who question what huge fireworks displays and Independence Day recklessness do to the earth, air and water.

Although it would be a mistake to abort such a lively holiday practice, which I personally enjoyed because of its freedom and possibility for improvisation, there may be room for some safety regulations and zoning enforcement in the future. 

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